When Twilight, starring Kristen Stewart as Bella Swan and Robert Pattinson as Edward Cullen, was released in 2008, it became a massive hit, gaining hordes of fans across the globe. There was the obvious market of teen girls, women in their 20s (less obvious), and in some cases, even their moms (totally unexpected). It’s unclear where the male demographic stood regarding Twilight, but there may have been some fans in that group, too.
With many issues to dissect, there’s one clear outlier: the lead character, Bella Swan.
A Story For Feminists?
What seemed like a cute love story between the 17-year-old Bella Swan and the immortal vampire Edward Cullen (conveniently also 17 despite having lived for over a century) slowly became a subject of debate. Some fans saw it as a feminist movie about a girl who knows what she wants and will do anything (even if it breaks her dad’s heart) to get what she wants. Others criticized the movie for promoting Edward’s possessiveness and over-protectiveness as romance.
Bella: Selfish And Obsessed
However, upon close examination, the movie is not about feminism or an overly possessive boyfriend. Its biggest problem is Bella, an obsessed, selfish girl who just doesn’t know when to quit. Twilight begins with Bella moving to a small town called Forks to live with her dad. But those details are semantics since the real story starts when Bella sees the standoffish Edward Cullen on her first day of school and instantly becomes obsessed with him.
Bella Has No Self-Respect
Although the other kids in the Twilight movie tell her that the Cullens like to keep to themselves, Bella remains transfixed. Even when Edward actively avoids Bella by ignoring her as his lab partner and then ditching school for a week to get away from her, she remains obsessed. When he finally returns and explains his rude behavior, she accepts it without question, and her fixation on him resumes. Any person with a shred of self-respect would have politely nodded and been done with the guy – but not Bella.
The Worst Line In Any Movie
On an extra rainy day, Edward uses his vampire powers (which in Twilight is super speed) to save Bella from an out-of-control car that’s about to crush her. That moment sets the stage for the disaster that is their relationship. Bella takes her obsession to the next level, trying to figure out how he saved her even when he explicitly (and angrily) tells her to let it go. The story then places Bella in danger (big and small) several times to have Edward save her.Edward eventually admits that he is a vampire who thirsts for her blood by way of the most cringeworthy line ever.
“I don’t have the strength to stay away from you anymore. You’re like my own personal brand of heroin.” Instead of being frightened, Bella makes a declaration of her own, albeit in her own mind. “About three things, I was absolutely positive. First, Edward was a vampire. Second, there was a part of him – and I didn’t know how dominant that part might be – that thirsted for my blood. And third, I was unconditionally and irrevocably in love with him.”
Bella’s Temper Tantrum
If that does not scream unhealthy obsession, nothing will. Bella’s selfish need to be with Edward later puts his family and hers at odds with a violent group of vampires who set out to hunt her. While on the run, she ineffectively tries to face off against the most dangerous of the bunch on her own. As expected, she gets injured and is saved (again) by Edward.
When he uses the incident as a valid reason for them not being together, Bella has a mini meltdown. Resigned to having Bella in his life forever, Edward (happily?) promises to stay with her forever. Twilight ends with the pair slow-dancing at prom and Bella telling (not asking) Edward that she will become like him (a vampire) eventually.
Twilight’s Lasting Imprint On The Genre
It’s easy to see why Twilight became such a hit. On the surface, the teen romance movies of the mid ’90s and early 2000s when films like She’s All That, 10 Things I Hate About You, and Can’t Hardly Wait captured the adolescent experience. But while those movies focused on simple love stories, usually featuring popular boys and quiet, nerdy girls who eventually find their way to each other, Twilight put some major cringe into the genre.